tv 1966 Fulbright Vietnam Hearings George Kennan CSPAN February 14, 2016 4:00pm-4:38pm EST
these freedoms we share as americans. we have cultivated the land and raised the food to feed the people and we have built the city's for the people. the whole world has contributed its people and its people have become americans. america is a land whose people share what they knew and worked together. america has benefited and we have benefited. we are the people of america. >> next on american history tv on c-span3, a look back 50 years bethe 19 66 the it not
hearings. these were the first hearings on the vietnam war. -- the 1966 the at phnom hearings. coverage of the hearings and begin with donald richie, who explains the significance of the hearings. >> the vietnam hearings were probably some of the most extraordinary hearings ever held by congress. hearing an investigation into a war that was still being fought. wanteds and the senate to know why we were in vietnam and what the administration's policies were and wanted to hear from opponents of the war. they gave equal status to critics of the war as they did to supporters. it's a real debate and that is something which does not happen in wartime. was we never had a
declaration of war or congressional debate as to why the united states should fight a war in vietnam. in 1964, there had been a minor incident in the gulf of tonkin between some pt boats and a destroyer. president johnson use that to get congress to pass the gulf of tonkin resolution, authorizing him to retaliate. one-shotseem to be a event at that point, rallying around the flag, showing we were all in support of the president during a crisis and it was done very quickly. debate, itvery short was passed unanimously with only two dissenting votes in the senate. absolutely no one thought it was a declaration of war at time and senator fulbright said to one of
the senators who asked if it could be interpreted that way, possible to interpret it that way, but that is not what the president had in mind. the election in november over barry goldwater who is running as the presidential candidate against him. when president johnson decided 1965nd troops in early between january and july when he was making up his mind whether -- whether to send ground troops, he debated inside and talk to several leaders as to to call off the reserves. he chose not to do that because he was afraid it would disrupt
the great society domestic legislation. other things he thought his opponents would use the war as a way to slow down or stop much of his the mastic legislation. the war to go into pretending the gulf of tonkin revolution was the equivalent to the declaration of war. as we got deeper into the war, they had been cheated out of the opportunity to debate the issue to declare war. senator fulbright thought he had been betrayed. him in johnson misused the gulf of tonkin resolution and chose to convene public s to investigate the war. he called it educational hearings. the administration really wanted
the secretary of defense and secretary of state to testify in closed-door sessions. senator fulbright got the rest of the committee to agree to hear to the hearing. but it was not just people who supported the war fulbright invited. gave them an equal standing. up to that point, the opponents of the war was to be college students picketing the soapbox orators. they did not have that kind of stature. senator fulbright gave the movement the stature that really shocked the washington establishment. president johnson was furious when he found out about this. he decided on the spur of the moment that he would fly to
honolulu about the time those hearings were going to open. he would call in the prime minister of south vietnam to meet him there and would make a big public splash. some of his top aides were out to lunch and when they got back to the house, they discovered everyone was rushing to meet in honolulu and they had even booked hotels and this was to steal the thunder from the hearing. they television networks came to broadcast this. this was before c-span so abc and cbs came to film it. they do this on the opening day and johnson is furious.
johnson's family owns a cbs station in austin, texas and johnson felt cbs owed him something. he got on the phone until the president of cbs he's doing a disservice to the nation. so the next day, instead of broadcasting the hearing, cbs broadcasts i love lucy reruns. fred friendly resigned in protest over the fact cbs chose not to and cbs sheepishly went back to broadcasting them again. that gave more publicity to the hearings and made more people tune in to watch. then they heard rest defending heard general gavin raising questions about strategies. they heard general taylor defending the strategies. senator fulbright did a huge
service to the nation to broadcast these. president johnson felt he did a huge disservice and the two of them who had been close friends became estranged for the rest of johnson's presidency. >> we are about to see february 10 1966, george tenet, his testimony for people who don't know that name, who was he? >> he was one of america's most hetinguished diplomats and had been in moscow or the american embassy during world war ii. when the war came to an end, the russians had and our allies that they saw soviet expansionism as
a threat to democracy in europe and he had written an article for "foreign affairs and signed it mr. x. suggesting the policy they needed to follow was containment. he did not think the soviet union could continue in it could bend if held inside the borders and not expand, that the west would avail. so his idea of containment principle underlying of the western european response to soviet expansionism and after thepansionism late 40's. canon himself came to have great
doubts about his own theory. it to be amean military response. he didn't mean the united states needed to be the policeman to the world and get into every fight that is going on. limited much more vision of what it was but the philosophy of containment was the basis for president johnson's decision to send troops to support south vietnam believing communist north vietnam was trying to some hurt the takeover. also believing china was behind northwest vietnam. the containment there he was the rationale to send troops to vietnam and here was the author saying it doesn't apply here. you need to get out as soon as
possible and try to save as much space as possible. it's on a winning situation for the united dates. >> from washington dc, the american broadcast company brings you a special report on this morning's hearing regarding the american commitment in the anon. the anon --sents the debate on capitol hill. to report, here is bill gill. >> the senate foreign relations committee resumed hearings with ormer ambassador george cannon as its witness. onsidered and expert communist world strategy, he disclaimed any expert firsthand knowledge on asian affairs, having served as ambassador to yugoslavia. he was expected to be cripple of americans and the policy in north vietnam. george cannon warned against impossible goals and further escalation of american involvement.
a precipitous and disorderly represent aould disservice to our own interest and even to world peace greater than any that might have been involved by our failure to engage there in the first place, this is a reality which, if there is to be any peaceful resolution to this conflict, is going to have to be recognized both by the more critical of our friends and by our adversaries. but at the same time, i have great misgivings about any expansion of hostilities on our part directed toward the achievement of something called victory. if by the use of that term, we envisage the complete disappearance of the recalcitrance for which we are the administration of
the adversary to our will and complete realization of our iesent stated quitclaims, doubt these things can be achieved even by the most formidable military successes. -- there seems to be an impression about that if we ring oppressionmilitary to bear that there will be capitulation on the other side. i think this is the most dangerous assumption. i do not say this absolutely possible, but it is a dangerous assumption in light of the experience we have had with communist elements in the past. the north vietnamese and the viet cong have between them a great deal of faith and manpower to give up if they have two the chinese can give them more if they need it. fidelity to the communist
tradition would dictate that if really pressed to extremity on the military level, these people should disappear entirely from the open scene and fallback exclusively on an underground lyrical and military existence rather than except terms that would be openly humiliating and represent in their eyes the betrayal of the future political prospects of the cause to which they are dedicated. any total rotting out of the viet cong from the territory of achievedtnam could be if it can be achieved at all only at the cost of the degree of damage to civilian life and civilians suffering generally for which i would not like to see this country responsible. to attempt to crush north vietnamese strength to appoint where hanoi could no longer give
support for viet cong activity in the south, would almost certainly it seems to me have the effect of ringing in chinese forces at some point whether formally or in the guise of volunteers, thus involving us in a military conflict with communist china on one of the most unfavorable theaters of hostility we could possibly choose. >> he warms up as he testifies america has suffered serious damage in world opinion through its actions in vietnam. he lamented this nation's role of inflicting what he terms grave injury and damage to peoples of another race and religion. lostaims this country has the respect and admiration of many nations and stated his position impact we. clear now that her how justified our action may be in our own eyes, it has failed to win either enthusiasm or
competence even among people normally friendly to us. our motives are widely misinterpreted and the spectacle emphasized and reproduced in thousands of trust photographs and stories that appear in the press of the world, the spectacle of americans inflicting grievous injury on a poor and helpless people, particularly of a different race and color, no matter how adversary ourhe operations may seem to us to be or may genuinely be, this spectacle produces reactions among millions of people throughout the world profoundly at your mental to the image we would like them to hold of this country. i am not saying is just or right. i am saying that this is so and it is bound in the circumstances
to be so. and the victory purchase of the price of such damage would he a hollow one no matter what advantages it might hold from the standpoint of developments on the local scene. reasons i hope our government might restrict military operations in vietnam to the minimum necessary to secure our forces and maintain our military press there until we can achieve a satisfactory and peaceful resolution of the conflict and these are the reasons why i hope we would continue to pursue vigorously and i may say consistently the such an the quest for peaceful resolution of the conflict even if this involves some moderation of our stated that gives and even if the resulting settlement appears to
us as something less than ideal. judge the military necessities of our situation. everything i can learn about its political aspects suggest to me general gavin is on the right track in his suggestions that we should, if i understood him correctly, decide what limited areas we can safely police and defend and restrict ourselves largely to the maintenance there. toave listened with interest the articles that have been brought forward and i have to say i have not been much impressed with some of them. when i was told it would be such things,defend it's hard to understand white would be easier to defend the far greater areas to which presumably a successful exculpation of our military activity would bring us. i also find it difficult for
reasons i won't take time to go believe our allies, particularly our western european allies, most of whom greatlves have given up territories within recent years and sometimes in a very statesmanlike way, i find it hard to believe we would be subject to great reproach at their hand simply because we followed a defensive rather than offense of strategy in vietnam at this time. this, it isuch as not, in my experience, what you do that is mainly decisive, it is how you do it. i would submit there's more respect to be one in the opinion andhis world by a resolute
-- by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives. and finally, when i hear it said to adopt a defensive strategy -- i am a little bewildered and would like to know what that commitment consists of and how and when it was incurred. what seems to be involved here is an obligation on our part not only to defend the frontiers against outside attack, but ensure the security of where the government is unable to secure it by its own means. obligation is one that
goes considerably further in its implications than the normal obligations of a normal military life. if we did not incur such an obligation, we should not be inventing it for ourselves and assuring ourselves that we are bound by it today. incorrect, id failed to understand how to enter into any such commitment other than the constitutional processes meant to come into lesswhen commitments are important than this. just to concluding observations -- i would like it understood that what i have said here implies nothing about the fighting qualities of our forces in the field for cap i have the
greatest confidence in them, men and commanders alike. i have no doubt that they can and will, if duty requires, support thatary will surprise are skeptical friends and arrogant adversaries . it is not there fighting quality, it is purpose to which they are being employed that invokes my skepticism. secondly, i'm trying to look at this whole problem not from the moral standpoint, but the practical one. cong a band ofet ruthless fanatics, hartley misled by the propaganda being drummed into them, but cool in their purposes, dictatorial, and oppressive in their aims. i am not conscious of having any sympathy for them. i think their claim to present the people of south vietnam is unfounded, arrogant, and outrageous.
theirtry which fell under exclusive power would have my deepest sympathy and i would hope this eventuality might be avoided by a restrained and moderate policy on our part. our countries should not be asked and should not ask of itself to shoulder the main burden of the political realities in the -- in any other country, particularly not in one remote from our shores, from our culture, and from the experience of our people. this is not only not our business, but i don't think we can do it successfully. >> abc's coverage of the the anon hearings continues after this message. ,> fernando garcia -- is a deas
names] ng they think steve murray is great. steve was not out to win a personality contest when he joined the peace corps. it just worked out that way. the world needs more people like steve. you might be one of them. right to peace corps, washington, d.c. >> ambassador kennan expressed his conviction that sibling because a country does go communist, doesn't necessarily mean the nation becomes our archenemy.
the committee's decision was captured as he cited his experience as ambassador to yugoslavia when that country went communist and he appeared to advocate that any independent communist country is able to maintain a satisfactory balance for both the free world and its communist allies. his testimony seems to favor the policy of allowing the people of south vietnam to decide for themselves what form of government is to be chosen. he sees little danger that orderly withdrawal from the unum would endanger other asian nations. so that when men call themselves communist that some sort of magic transformation takes place within them that makes them wholly different from other human beings or from what they were before, feelings of nationalism, ordinary feelings till effect them to a large extent. i think this reality plays a
part in all of vietnam. i don't think they want domination by the chinese. i think the fact that there is an alternative to the chinese within a communist world and they are in aere much better position to give them the economic aid that they need, think all of this represent a state of affairs which would be carefully and sensitively taken into account any south the enemies of communists and i merely wish to say, therefore, that while there domination would not be desirable, it might not be perhaps quite as tragic as many of us assume. >> i don't think any of us are under an allusion that it can be an insensitive or desirable one. if any settlement is reached,
butthat is only tolerable actually satisfactory, is that not your view? comments insist that you stated on page six that you are not looking at this from a moral standpoint that a practical one, of what can be achieved here and you call attention to the great differences in the culture and on innd language and so this area and other areas i can think of in which we have become involved. i figure by this you mean this is not a practicable objective and we can't achieve it even with the best of wills. >> this is correct and i have a fear our thinking about this whole problem is still affected by some sort of allusions of and
instability that there is no problem in the world which we come if we wanted to vote enough resources to it could not solve. mostagree with this profoundly. i believe we can order the political -- don't believe we can order the political realities in other parts of the world. so far, we are not successful on ordering them on islands close to our own shores and id readout we can enter into the affairs of people far, far away like this and by our own efforts determine what sort of political positions are going to prevail there. now, this is separate from my sympathies. i have seen as much as anyone in this room of people leaving -- of people living under communism and i know what that means. these people have my sympathy,
but, as john quincy adams said, there are limits to what our duties and capabilities are. our first duties are to ourselves and if we get lost in to rescue or even established in many instances the liberties of others and particularly of people who have never known them as we know them in this country you don't even know what the word means that we we can lose our own substance and have very little to show for it when it is all over. your view if the elections had been held in south vietnam 1956,y, 1990 -- july, that people of vietnam would probably have voted in officials that would have established a communist regime that would have done so under the regime set
forth in the accords? a great't claim to know deal about the realities there and i go largely on the in the book of a respected ex-president who presd that everything he had learned was that the election would have gone in favor of the communist side at that time. i cannot judge the correctness of this. i believe that the elections, at that time, would have gone in favor of the communist side. on the other hand, i am not sure that they would have been entirely free. >> if the people decided they would support a communist regime, do you think it is wise for the united states to use
power to prevent those elections or to intervene to prevent those people from having the kind of government they want? wise.o not think it is i recognize that this can create , depending on the place that it happens, it can create very difficult problems for the government. . >> i'm not going to yield. i want to press the question. i want to ask , do you think, speaking of the other parts of the world, that to maintainl for us
the overseas bases and land forces? the whole movement of our allies as militarywithdraw investment goes abroad. do you think that has an effect on the image abroad? >> i think that it is exploited by the communists and that it has some effect. i think that we should would draw all of our bases abroad -- i do not think you can generalize about that. weo think there are some
would have been better to never have established. are a have bases where we party with other nations in supporting, like nato. es for aunilateral bas "go it alone" course. do you think there is a danger when we pursue a military base policy. >> senator morris, i think there is a danger. possible that it is there would be incidences where we would need to maintain those basis, even at the expense of misunderstanding. >> do you think the withdrawal of forces in vietnam from the country could be used effectively as a propaganda tool
and weapon in africa and are merging nations? -- and the emerging nations? >> the chinese are making a great effort. it would be a "six-month sensation." i think we would survive it. things happen fast on the international scene and memories are short. minds back over the crises of recent years and ask what has become of them, we realize the truth of the statement. hot and bothered about lebanon and landing troops there. no one would have thought the cyprus crisis would be as frayed as it is today. please things pass. -- these things pass.
resolve,isis did not did it? there was the imposition of forceful actions. as a result of the forceful instance, thish disc urged who had designs on discourageds -- those who had designs on the countries. vietnam as lebanon -- >> we got into lebanon with sufficient force. they have not dropped the bomb on vietnam. >> i am not sure the situations are comparable. we are a great nation and our world position rests, in the long run, on things more
substantial and more important than momentary propaganda victories of opponents. anle i think the effects of would drawnilateral from vietnam would be unfortunate and unnecessary -- i do not favor any such withdraw 4 hence, thet 3- world will not look so different. >> these went through the afternoon. part of ouris coverage of the senate hearings on vietnam. >> the american broadcasting company has brought to you the debate on capitol hill. americans of the commitment in vietnam.
>> the reaction to the testimony was divided. wasjohnson administration furious and try to dismiss him. they imply that he was racist because he wanted to use american forces in europe and not southeast asia. was anggested he impractical dreamer. george kennan became a hero to the anti-war movement. he never agreed with the student radicals and felt uncomfortable with that response. his rationale and his arguments give a lot of credence to the arguments being made by the antiwar movement, at the time. the national war college had a tribute to him and invited dean rusk, robert mcnamara, and